Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, November 16th, 2019

Amanullah’s Reforms Go Down in History

This year marks the centenary of Afghanistan’s Independence declared by King Amanullah Khan, who ushered in his regime with a series of reforms, mainly in terms of culture, education, and politics. Afghanistan’s first Constitution was endorsed during Amanullah’s regime, which put an end to racial, religious, and sexual discrimination.
Afghan men and women were entitled equally in the Constitution. Primary education was declared an obligation and a number of schools were launched in different provinces of Afghanistan, including Kabul. Moreover, a number of Afghan girls were sent to Turkey for education and women were engaged in social, political, and cultural activities.
Amanullah extended his reform through cancelling underage marriage and declaring hijab, women’s headscarf, non-obligatory in Paghman Loya Jirga (1928).
However, Amanullah’s drastic reforms were proved counterproductive as they sparked off public sentiment. Afghan conservatives, clergy, and tribal elders strongly reacted against Amanullah’s iconoclastic movement and found it contrary to religious values, social norms, and cultural standards.
Although the bulk of Amanullah’s movement has been conciliatory with Islamic tenets – which supports women’s role in social, cultural, and political activities and deems education an “obligation” for both men and women – it jeopardized the benefits of tribal elders and some clerics, who sought their self-interests at the cost of keeping people in dark.
Meanwhile, Amanullah’s movement was against the deeply embedded traditions of tribal belts, mainly tribal code of conduct called “Pashtunwalai”. Afghanistan was, and still is, a highly traditional community. They seek to protect their code of conduct at the cost of their lives, even though they are in conflict with Islamic tenets in most cases. For example, they conduct desert courts to flagellate or even stone men or women suspect of adultery, resolve family issues through tribal council rather than legal courts, and elders impose their warped mind on the villagers and their descendants, to name but a few.
It is believed that the clash between modernism and conservatism has been continuing in Afghanistan. A large number of Afghan people support modern movements of Amanullah Khan and show great tendency in human rights discourse and democratic principles, which have resurfaced after the collapse of the Taliban’s regime. The current Constitution is highly influenced by that of Amanullah’s period as it leaves no room for racial, religious or sexual discrimination. With such a constitution, Afghan women have been actively engaged in social, political, and economic activities making great strides. They hold high political positions such as MPs, ambassadors, ministers, governors, etc.
Nonetheless, conservatives and religious fundamentalists are still opposing modern movements and democratic activities in one way or another. As a result, scores of individuals show sensitivity towards human rights discourse and democratic principles, calling them western products. They are still against women’s involvement in social and political life.
Worst of all, the Taliban are also a group of religious fundamentalists and radical ideologues, along with thugs and criminals, who fight against democratic issues. Similar to the past, a number of radical Muftis and Mawlawis (clerics) also find their self-interests at stake with the footstep of democracy in Afghanistan and fight against the democratically established government. Some members of the Taliban group are religious ideologues who are unable to reconcile their parochial mindset with democratic discourse. But some others, mainly their leaders, simply seek to hold power. They capitalize on religious issues to pursue their sinister aims.
Afghan nation is highly obliged to Amanullah’s services, even if he did not declare Afghanistan’s independence, mostly because of his constructive reforms such as entitling men and women equally, ending racial and religious discrimination, launching girls’ schools, and pushing for women’s social and political role. One can claim with full confidence that the past kings such as Amanullah Khan and Zahir Shah sowed the seeds of democracy in Afghanistan.
As Afghans celebrate the centenary of Independence, they have to pursue Amanullah’s reforms and carry his goodwill and patriotic feelings. No single Afghan citizen has to destroy the country or spill the blood of another individual under sacred terms. In short, Afghanistan’s history showed that religious radicals and radicalism played highly destructive role.
History should be an eye-opener for each individual. Afghans have to moderate their mindset and adopt reconciliatory approach towards democratic principles. Sensationalism and sentimental approach have been proved destructive. It is recommended that all Afghans have to pursue a peaceful and prosperous country, which can be achieved through exercising religious tolerance and the spirit of brotherhood and respecting the rights and freedoms of all individuals regardless of their caste, color, or creed. We hope all Afghans celebrate the Independence Day in a peaceful and friendly atmosphere this year.